As Pride Month comes to a close, we are reflecting on how we can arm our friends and colleagues with tips and ideas to continue to be an ally and to support our LGBTQ+ community well beyond June. ICAN staff and members of our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee have put together ways that they and their families work towards acceptance and equity for all and how they support and celebrate our LGBTQ+ friends.
1) Be Aware of Your Language
Language is so powerful. We all remember the first time our significant other said “I love you”. I was at a Stop sign, and I will never forget what that felt like, 19 years later. I also remember in high-school when a guidance counselor told me “you aren’t college material…you would probably make a good secretary.” Meaning, being a secretary is less esteemed than a job requiring a degree.*cringe*
Sometimes I hear people say “Uggh, that is so gay.” Meaning “Uggh, that is so stupid.” So I challenge them and ask “what does gay mean to you?” Usually they are embarrassed to be challenged, people don’t like their ignorance being pointed out.
Both statements are ignorant. How am I an ally? I challenge language, and I am not a jerk.
Carrie E. Conte, LCSW
Community Initiatives Program Manager
2) Make it a Family Thing!
One way that I am an Ally to the LGBTQ+ community is not being alone in my support, by making it a whole family thing! This extension has no limits reaching as far as my friends and family visiting Walt Disney together during their pride week, to the smaller effort of putting my son in a pair of colorful Pride PJs. We love to love all the love.
Finance Department Manager
3) Do Your Part to Stay Educated
One way I hope to be an ally to our LGBTQ+ community is to make sure I do my part to make sure they feel safe being their authentic self. I want to continuously learn and be educated so that I am part of building an inclusive world.
Director of Community Outreach
4) Provide a Safe Place
It is so important to have a place where you feel safe to communicate and be yourself; a place without judgement; an inclusive space; a space where you feel you belong. Many LGBTQ+ folks, especially our youth and teens or those at any age just coming out, find it hard to find such a space. This is why it is so important as an ally to communicate and to showcase that you provide such a space.
Since I began working at ICAN almost 20 years ago, I have proudly hung a SAFE SPACE sticker on the outside door of my office or cubicle space so that anyone entering knows without a doubt that they are safe, welcome and encouraged to be themselves.
Director of Brand Management
5) Support Those Around You
“When I think of being an ally to the LGBTQ community, the word support comes to mind. What do I mean by that? In my household, I teach my children about inclusivity. I teach them to accept others for who they are despite any differences. Recently, my son shared a story about a female classmate that is dating another girl. I provided a safe space for him to share that information and to process what it looks like and his feelings towards it. He was accepting and understood that each person is entitled to their choices and their preferences. As a friend, we support others as we would want and hope to be supported. We also read books on diversity and accepting others which I believe encourages my children to keep an open mind while also being compassionate."
Jesenia Wright, LMSW
6) Ask Questions. Have Conversations.
I was 22, I was in love, I was happy, and about fifteen other emotions. All of which encouraged me to “come out.”
My friends and family were as supportive as you could hope, and only saw me happier and more content than I’ve ever been. Others did what I feared the most. They stared. They judged. They made offensive comments.
When I came out, I not only came out as a member of the LGBT+ community, but also as an ally. I wanted to learn and protect others from what I’ve dealt with from complete strangers. I’ve struggled with what I say and the way I say it. I’ve struggled with what others prefer to be called as well as what I prefer others to call me.
Now, I’ve learned that the best education is asking questions, and learning from those who know themselves best. I’ve also learned that I’m a voice for those who are out and afraid, not ready to come out, or who may never come out. Ask questions, have those conversations. Because they only get easier.
I am an out and proud gay woman (she/her). And I’m an ally.
Adult Care Management Supervisor
7) Treat Everyone Equally
When I was asked how I have been an ally to the LGBTQ community I was initially struggling with how to respond, simply because I just am. I have never been one to judge someone based on gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, race, socio-economic status etc. For me from a young age, I was always taught to treat everyone equally and what mattered is how someone treated you and how they made you feel as a person. If that was good, positive, loved then they were "my people".
This is something I have also tried to instill in both of my children over their lifetimes. There have been many discussions that have been had at home regarding the way people are treated based on what some may perceive as different. In a recent discussion I had with my older son (22) he said, "But different to who, because if my best friend is gay then he is gay, so why does that matter? No two people are the same". I knew then that he had learned and that he also believes all people are equal and everyone deserves to be happy regardless. My younger son (5) is also reminded to treat everyone equally and we have started to discuss that all people are different and that is ok. Recently, I started introducing books about equality, acceptance and diversity to help to open up these discussions.
Case Management Supervisor
8) Encourage Children to Be Who They Are and Like What They Like
I consider myself an Ally for many reasons and try to live them everyday. Probably the most impactful way that I do this is through the children I have and continue to raise! By eliminating the need to gender identify toys and activities for both my children and my grandchildren the next generation learns that you can be who you are, like what you like and express yourself in your own unique way - and that's pretty cool! This past Christmas my grandson had one thing on his list - The Barbie Dream Camper! When I asked why he wanted this toy he said very innocently that first it was an awesome color (happens to be pink), second it comes with a lot of fun stuff like a kayak and third it's the perfect home for his dinosaurs! Of course this beautiful child received this toy because who can argue with those reasons!